There are few moments in a fan’s life that stand out as crystal clear, snapshots of a place in time recalled with vivid clarity. Usually they involve on-field action, like seeing The Mick at Yankee Stadium, the final out of the 1996 World Series, or walk-off home runs by Chris Chambliss and Aaron Boone.
Other times those movie-like replays have to do with major signings or trades. The Alex Rodriguez and Giancarlo Stanton blockbusters quickly come to mind. For my money, though, few moments top when the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka.
I coveted Tanaka that winter. I remember everything about the 2013-2014 pursuit, from the cat-and-mouse game with the Rakuten Golden Eagles over his posting, to his meetings with club envoys. I even had a nightmare that Tanaka signed with the Seattle Mariners. True story.
Now, just about five years later, Tanaka represents one of the best postseason pitchers of his generation with a career 1.32 ERA in the playoffs. He’s the Yankees’ stopper, and the Bombers need him to take up that mantle once again today. Down two games to one against the Astros, the club asks him to not only beat Houston, but soak up innings to spare the bullpen in the process. Everyone knows that he’s the right pitcher for the task, too.
“Any time the moment gets really big, he is good at slowing the game down himself and maybe taking even a little bit off of his pitches as opposed to powering through it,’’ Astros manager A.J. Hinch explained to Dan Martin yesterday. “We’d like to see us have a more disciplined approach, but that’s easier said than done with the stuff he has.’’
At some point I will inevitably get lost in the action of the game, living and dying with each pitch. For now, though, I’m going to take some time to appreciate how incredible a moment this is. It’s something special to watch a player you’ve loved for so long have such success and get the ball in October.
Take a snapshot in your mind and enjoy this moment. It will be well worth it.
How To Watch:
Time: 8:08 pm EST
Venue: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
Radio: ESPN Radio, WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280 (local listings)
If you’re looking ahead to Game Five, StubHub has tickets available for purchasing. Click here for details.